'Twas not too long ago - well, maybe 60 years ago - that Chicago was considered the Railroad Hub of the U.S. No fewer than seven major trains stations dotted Downtown Chicago at one time (25 points for you if you can name them all).
Of course, air travel has long replaced the rails as the dominant form of U.S. Transportation, although Chicago is still considered a big, centrally-located transportation hub for those traveling by air.
But if President Obama has his way, the City of Chicago would once again rise as a railroad hub, as U.S. High Speed Rail begins to roll!
High-Speed Passenger Trains, whisking travelers at 200 MPH or more between major business centers. For many travelers, door-to-door transit times would rival that of medium-distance air travel. Top service en route. Comfortable seats.
That's been reality for many years now - in Europe, and parts of Asia. But not in the United States.
Not yet, anyway!
As reported by Deanese Williams-Harris in today's Chicago Tribune, President Obama unveiled his plans for High-Speed Rail in the U.S. His plan calls for a network of ten high-speed corridors, several of which would meet at a hub in Chicago, while others would connect major East Coast and West Coast cities.
Through Chicago, the High-Speed Rail would serve Minneapolis-St. Paul, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Madison, along with intermediate destinations.
Obama's Rail Program would be funded by $8 Billion in Federal Stimulus Funds. There would also be a separate U.S. pledge of $1 Billion each year for five years to help individual states improve their railroad infrastructure, to create an attractive inter-city transit alternative to flying or driving.
Officials hoping for a 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago hope the High-Speed Rail Network would be in place in time for the games. A high-speed link between Chicago and Madison WI would provide a fast-transportation alternative to a possible cycling competition held in the Wisconsin State Capitol.
The new high-speed trains would move at speeds of up to 110 MPH - making the Chicago to St. Louis Run in only four hours each way - a savings of nearly three hours from the current inter-city trip.
In Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan, programs are currently in progress to increase the current 79 MPH average train speed to one approaching the 110 MPH max safe speed for today's Amtrak Trains. Trains traveling above that speed need be specially built, as would elaborate, high-barrier grade crossings and dedicated railroad right-of -ways.
Some Amtrak trains in Michigan are traveling at speeds of 95 MPH, with higher speeds likely.
Railroad Tracks in Europe are government controlled and dedicated and separated for passenger travel. U.S. passenger tracks are actually owned by railroad freight companies. Amtrak intercity passengers in the U.S. must endure longer delays on these trains, as they have to yield for freight traffic on the same sets of tracks.
Inter-city Amtrak rail ridership across Illinois has doubled in recent years, despite frequently slow or late service. Many attribute the ridership increase to climbing gas prices. Others see the train as a "greener" way to travel inter-city. Still others like the ability to relax, read, or complete work in the comfort of a train car, while still being able to keep connected to the outside world via cell phone and wireless internet now available in laptops and PDA's.
Is a functional U.S. High-Speed Rail System a real possibility within the next few years? There is no guarantee, but the fact the project is being championed by the President himself might increase its chances for success.
See our post today via BlogChicagoHomes.com.
DEAN MOSS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO